Most competent and/or popular rulers

Oct 2011
140
Croatia
#1
Which rulers had been uncommonly competent, or else at least popular among common people?

I have two examples here that qualify for both:

Basil II - Rhomaioi Emperor of 10th/11th centuries. He was not exacly beloved by the major landowners, and even less by the nobility of the capital. However, he was extremely popular with the common people, as was indeed Macedonean dynasty as a whole. He restricted power of the nobility, and introduced measures meant to ensure that thematic army remained battle-ready. That being said, his overall competence is questionable - I will be writing about this in more detail (I hope), but apparently he actively excluded his younger brother from affairs of the state. This is to prove disastrous after Basil II's death, as Constantine VIII was wholly incapable of governing the state, and his daughters even more so. Yet results of Basil II and previous emperors - such as Constantine VII, who indeed was probably one of the most competent Emperors (and likely far better emperor than Basil II) - meant that people had developed an emotional attachment to the dynasty, making it impossible for even incompetent Macedonean rulers to be evicted.

Matthias Corvinus - a Hungarian-Croatian king from 15th century. In Croatia, popular saying was "Pokle dobri kralj Matijaš spi, nikakve pravice ni!" ("Since good king Matijas sleeps, no justice there had been."), which should tell you enough about perception common people had about him. Indeed he was a popular king, and a good ruler - he limited powers of large magnates, and mostly relied on minor aristocracy and even commoners. He became King as an adolescent of only 15 years of age. While nobility initially forced him to restrict his own powers, he developed connections with lower nobles, which allowed him to establish essentially a modern centralized state. Most of his administration consisted of people from middle and lower nobility, who had connections with everyday life of common folk. He took over judicial system, and strangled corruption; this allowed him to introduce taxes to high nobility, whereas under weaker rulers large landowners had often been excluded from taxation. This allowed him to create a first professional army in Europe since fall of the Roman Empire - the Black Army of Hungary. He also created a precursor to the later Military Frontier, stopping Ottoman advance into Croatia. But his son failed to secure the throne, and Matthias' successor will roll back all of Corvinus' reforms, weakening the kingdom and leading to a disaster at Mohacs in 1526.
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
2,682
Republika Srpska
#4
In a Communist society like Yugoslavia, who knows how much Tito was actually loved and how much was a show. Today, the opinion on him seems to be somewhat split, he has his fans, but also a lot of people don't really like him. I personally don't, but I can see why some people do.
 
Likes: Futurist
Feb 2019
224
Thrace
#5
In a Communist society like Yugoslavia, who knows how much Tito was actually loved and how much was a show. Today, the opinion on him seems to be somewhat split, he has his fans, but also a lot of people don't really like him. I personally don't, but I can see why some people do.
Most don't afaik.
 
Likes: Futurist
Sep 2016
1,090
Georgia
#6
Gian Galeazzo Visconti - Duke of Milan in the late 14th/early 15th century. He gained control of Milan by overthrowing his uncle Bernabo. Gian Galeazzo created a strong and efficient bureaucracy by introducing a special class of paid clerks and secretaries of departments. Their duty consisted in committing to books and ledgers the minutest items of his private expenditure and the outgoings of his public purse; in noting the details of the several taxes, so as to be able to present a survey of the whole state revenue; and in recording the names and qualities and claims of his generals, captains, and officials. He was also one of the first Italian lords to feel the first wind of renaissance and his court in Pavia was stacked with humanists and savants (first among them Petrarca). Together with the major hidraulic works, he also commissioned to regulate the irrigation in Lombardy and the building of the magnificent Certosa of Pavia. Gian Galeazzo united all the Visconti dominions in his own hands and further amplified them by his military power and his clever manipulation of rival cities. He wanted to be the biggest cheese in Italy and by a mix of force, diplomacy, cunning and bribery almost got there. Soon after seizing Milan he took Verona, Vicenza, and Padua, establishing himself as Signore of each, and soon controlled almost the entire valley of the Po, including Piacenza. In 1395 he secured from Luxemburg King of the Romans Wenceslaus formal recognition as the Duke of Milan, the first Visconti to bear that honor, for a sum of 100,000 florins.
Gian Galeazzo's forces even defeated new Holy Roman Emperor Rupert in 1401 at Brescia. Rupert had to retreat back to Germany. With the north largely quiescent Gian Galeazzo turned his sights to the south, towards Tuscany and the Romagna. In the wake of Matilda of Tuscany's death in 1115 Tuscany had been dominated by a cluster of city states. Greatest among these was the Republic of Florence. As one of the largest and wealthiest independent cities Florence had begun to expand into Tuscany using the valiant mercenary John Hawkwood, and they naturally opposed any attempts at Italian unification as an existential threat to their republic, and the wealth of the city funded its opposition to the Visconti. Florence had some success in the first war of 1390-1392, but suffered defeat in the second war of 1397-1398. Sensing weakness, the rival cities of Pisa and Siena defected to the Visconti in 1399. Lucca also abandoned the anti-Visconti alliance.
The Visconti did not lack for soldiers, nor allies of their own- the Gonzaga of Mantua, and the Malatesta of Rimini, sided with Milan.
Gian Galeazzo marched against Florence's sole remaining ally, the city of Bologna. On June 26th 1402 the Milanese defeated the Florentine-Bolognese alliance at the Battle of Casallecio. Gian Galeazzo conquered Bologna and marched on Florence. However, Galeazzo's dreams were to come to naught as he succumbed to a fever at the castello of Melegnano in August of 1402 and died in September. His powerful state fragmented as infighting among his successors wrecked Milan.

Galeazzo also got his daughter Valentina Visconti married to Louis I Duke of Orleans ( brother of King Charles VI ). She eventually became grandmother and great-grandmother of 2 future French Kings : Louis XII and Francis I.

Gian Galeazzo Visconti was essentially the perfect ,, Prince ''. He needed a bit more luck. If not for fever, Galeazzo would take Florence.

Domains of Gian Galeazzo Visconti :
 
Last edited:
Mar 2019
850
Kansas
#8
Which rulers had been uncommonly competent, or else at least popular among common people?
Bob Hawke, and Australian Prime Minister in the 1980s enjoyed a 75% approval rating for part of his time at the top. Which is the highest percentage I have ever heard of in a democratic system.
 
Feb 2019
443
Serbia
#9
King George III

In America we all know his reputation, however in Britain he was beloved and served as symbol of patriotism and unity, most notably in the Napoleonic Wars.

Under his reign Britain defeated France in the 7 Years' War, the Agricultural Revolution reached its peak, India was almost completely conquered, Australia was colonised, the Industrial Revolution started and Britain emerged as the most powerful nation in the world following the Napoleonic Wars, there is much more to be said about him but this is as brief as possible.
 
Likes: Picard
#10
This will not surprise considering my username, but I submit Diocletian. For much of history, Diocletian was remembered above all else as the author of the Great Persecution. Indeed, among the few people who happen to be aware of Diocletian, the Persecution is still the main and sometimes only thing that comes to mind. However, beginning with Gibbon, and more so from the late 19th century onwards, scholars have increasingly recognized the stability, success and innovation that characterized his rule.

Diocletian had his faults. His ambitious Tetrarchic scheme of rulership was an extraordinary success with Diocletian at the helm, but it did not succeed in becoming an enduring solution to imperial instability since it ultimately required his personal influence to hold it together. His prices edict was a notable failure, but it nonetheless reflects the poor understanding of economics that existed in ancient times. But Diocletian was an innovative and incredibly hands-on ruler who was trying to find solutions to bring an end to the political, military and economic instability of his time, and in many key respects he succeeded. The Sassanians suffered a truly decisive defeat (and the humiliating Treaty of Nisibis) to the Romans, the taxation system was reformed to be more regular and equitable, a five-yearly census was introduced, the emperorship became more ideologically protected through the introduction of elaborate ceremonial and by being more closely associated with the divine, control over the provinces became more centralized, the imperial bureacracy was expanded, the frontiers were strengthened, law was compiled into codices for the first time, military support was successfully elicited after decades of rampant military rebellion (in part by emphasizing in propaganda that he and Maximian were brothers-in-arms), the power of individual governors and generals was weakened (reducing their ability to rebel), numerous barbarians were defeated, the power of the praetorian guard was diminished, the ten-year usurpation of the British emperors was defeated, the provincial cities of imperial residence were revamped with major building programs and the foundation of mints to become effective capital cities with more strategic significance than Rome, and the twenty years of Tetrarchic dynastic rule that Diocletian achieved (although that in itself did collapse into civil war after his abdication) paved the way for the political stability brought by Constantine and his dynasty, whose initial ascendancy came off the back of Constantius' legitimacy as a Tetrarch, thus helping to end the succession crisis of the later third century.

Diocletian's persecution of the Christians should be viewed through the lens of his problem-solving. In a time of great crisis, it is not surprising that there were people who thought that the gods were angry. The Christians were travelling the empire, converting people to their faith. They taught that it was wrong to sacrifice to idols. In 301 Diocletian tried to stem inflation through his ambitious prices edict, and this effort led to further inflation. In 302 he persecuted the Manicheans, whom he declared to be impious and a Persian fifth column to boot. In 303 the persecution of the Christians began. The context of Diocletian the problem-solver, a man who was working within the context of what he thought he knew about the world, does much to explain the persecution, but the persecution itself has done much to draw attention away from a broader appreciation of this unusual and successful emperor.
 

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